Eight unique yet weird dishes of Ha Giang province

Eight unique yet weird dishes of Ha Giang province

Ha Giang 15.10.2021

When coming to Ha Giang, not only can you see Dong Van rock plateau, conquer Ma Pi Leng pass and take a boat across the poetic Nho Que river, but you will also have the opportunity to enjoy the rich and unique cuisine of this province. Here are the nine dishes you must try when you are here.

Translated by nguyendo

Written by hoant

Au Tau Porridge

When traveling to Ha Giang, a nutritious dish that you should try is Au Tau porridge. Au Tau is a type of tuber that often grows in Northwest Vietnam, which is very hard and poisonous. According to the locals, eating Au Tau directly can lead to death, but in medicine, this kind of tuber can cure many diseases, especially when soaked in alcohol, it can treat diseases related to bones and joints. From a poisonous tuber, Ha Giang people - with their own ingenuity - have processed Au Tau into a nutritious and healthy dish. Due to the toxicity of this tuber, the locals often call it "death porridge" or "poisonous porridge".

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Au Tau tubers are poisonous, but they are the ingredients to make Au Tau porridge, which is a specialty of Ha Giang. Photo: Bnew

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Au Tau porridge is a specialty of Ha Giang. Photo: amthucviet.vn

Au Tau Porridge has many flavours, which are not strong but very harmonious. The dish is cooked from ingredients such as: Au Tau, sticky rice, ordinary rice, pork trotter, chicken eggs, hot chili and pepper. Before being cooked, Au Tau tubers must be soaked in rice water and then simmered until soft, then pureed and cooked with other ingredients. Although  the ingredients are very familiar, the distinct bitter taste of Au Tau is the feature that makes the dish unique - try this dish once and you will remember its flavour forever. Au Tau porridge is available in every season, but if you want to eat it, you have to go to the market in the evening. The dish can help diners have a good night's sleep after a long busy day at work.

A bowl of Au Tau porridge is about VND 30,000.

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Au Tau porridge has a characteristic bitter taste. Photo: feedy.vn

Thang Co

Those who have traveled to Ha Giang often tell each other that: It would be a big mistake when coming here without going to Dong Van market, drinking corn wine and eating Thang Co. As a traditional dish of the H'Mong people, Thang Co is actually a kind of soup.

The main ingredients of Thang Co dish are the offal of cows, goats and horses, which are finely chopped and stir-fried in a large pan. Next, add water, lemon leaves, cinnamon and cardamom to the pan, then simmer them until the ingredients are well-cooked. This dish is widely used by the H'Mong people on occasions such as weddings and funerals.

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Thang Co is one of the famous specialties of Ha Giang. Photo: kenh14.vn

Thang Co is best served hot, when you have to both eat and blow on the food to make it cooler - only by this way can you enjoy its rich flavours to the fullest. In the midst of cold weather, eating a hot bowl of Thang Co with the aroma of spices such as cardamom, Sichuan pepper, lemongrass, pepper and hot chili would be a great experience. It is not difficult to find Thang Co restaurants at the markets of Dong Van, Meo Vac and Lung Cu. The price for a bowl of Thang Co is very reasonable at about VND 30,000/bowl.

Smoked meat

Smoked buffalo meat/pork are familiar dishes of the people in Northwest Vietnam. The meat is usually cut into long pieces, marinated with spices such as salt, hot chili, ginger and Sichuan pepper. After that, the meat is skewered on big sticks and hung in the kitchen attic to smoke. A special thing about this meat is that there are no preservatives, so the dish is rich in nutrients and good for health.

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Smoked meat is a specialty of Ha Giang. Photo: soha.vn

The flavours of sweetness, chewiness and spiciness blend with the typical smell of smoke of Northwest Vietnam to create a palatable dish. Before eating, you can steam the meat and sprinkle some lemon juice on it to make it more tasty.

The price of smoked buffalo meat: VND 800,000 - 900,000/kg.

The price of smoked pork: VND 400,000 - 500,000/kg.

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Photo: tienphong.vn

Shan Tuyet Tea

Growing in the middle of mountains and forests, each gray-white Shan tea tree is covered with a layer of white powder as smooth as snow, that is why this tea is named Shan Tuyet (Snow). As a traditional tea of the Mong, Dao and Tay ethnic groups, Shan Tuyet tea is cultivated naturally. High-quality tea must be brewed with water from the upstream rivers in order for the flavour to be rich and aromatic. Shan Tuyet tea has a mild taste and the water is as yellow as honey.

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Shan Tuyet tea is a specialty of Ha Giang. Photo: baomoi.com

Sitting on the doorstep of locals’ houses and enjoying a cup of Shan Tuyet tea in the midst of mountains and forests of the Northwest would be a wonderful experience when you travel to Ha Giang.

The price of Shan Tuyet tea ranges from VND 100,000 - 150,000/100gr.

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Shan Tuyet tea has a characteristic mild aroma.

Ha Giang Sour Pho (Pho Chua Ha Giang)

When coming to Ha Giang in the summer, you should definitely enjoy sour Pho to relieve the heat of the weather. Sour Pho is also known as "Luong Pan" (cool noodle soup), which originated from China and is popular in Ha Giang thanks to the cultural exchange between the two countries.

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Ha Giang sour Pho has a very different sour taste compared to common types of Pho. Photo: tuoitre.vn

What makes sour Pho different from other types of noodles is its light sour taste: the locals often use the water from pickles made from bamboo shoots/vegetables or even vinegar to create a sour taste for Pho. The noodles are usually made from high-quality upland rice - they are ground, coated into thin paper and cut into small/large fibers based on your preference. Next, add some finely chopped duck meat or pork with herbs, thinly sliced cucumbers and spring onions to the bowl of noodles, then pour the broth (with a moderate sweet and sour taste) into this bowl. Sour Pho is usually served cold, and it has a greasy taste of meat mixed with the mild taste of broth, creating a harmonious flavour.

A bowl of sour Pho usually ranges from VND 25,000 - 35,000.

Thang Den

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Thang Den is a specialty of Ha Giang. Photo: vntrip.vn

Thang Den, which is a popular dessert of Ha Giang people, is quite similar to the rice ball sweet soup of Hanoi, but its rice balls are smaller. High-quality sticky rice is soaked, drained off water, grounded and put in a cloth bag. When the dough becomes thick and smooth, it will be taken out to be processed into balls as small as the tip of the thumb with a filling made from coconut or pureed mung bean. Next, the rice balls are boiled until they float on the surface of the water, then take them out. Add water cooked from ginger and Hoa Mai sugar, shredded coconut, coconut milk and peanuts into the bowl of rice balls and you will have a tasty dessert of Thang Den. The light sweet flavour of the dish will leave you a strong impression from the first taste. Thang Den is best enjoyed in winter.

Each bowl of Thang Den ranges from VND 5,000 - 10,000.

Grilled Rock Moss (Reu Da Nuong)

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The stages of making grilled moss. Photo: ivivu.vn

Grilled rock moss is a traditional dish of the Tay people in Ha Giang. Fresh moss is taken from rock crevices along streams with strong flows of water - usually upstream - to ensure hygiene. After that, the locals will clean, remove the viscous substances and then drain off the water from the moss. After being preliminary processed, the moss is marinated with some spices such as Sichuan pepper, Muoi fruit, ginger, lemongrass and chili powder, and then wrapped in Dong leaves and placed in hot ash with embers on top so that the moss would be well-cooked without being burnt. Grilled moss has a characteristic sweet taste, which is very impressive.

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An attractive serving of grilled moss. Photo: interview.vn

Buckwheat Cake (Banh Tam Giac Mach)

When coming to Ha Giang in October or November, not only can you only see the majestic mountains and forests, but you can also taste the unique flavour of buckwheat cakes. The locals take the seeds of the buckwheat to make round and flat cakes, which are grilled on the fire and are still hot when they “arrive” at the hands of buyers. The cake is round, soft and spongy with a typical sweet and strong smell of buckwheat seeds.

Just walking around the markets in Ha Giang with only VND 10,000, you can buy a buckwheat cake as big as two hands of an adult.

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Ha Giang buckwheat cake. Photo: zing.vn

Ha Giang cuisine attracts visitors by its uniqueness as well as its rustic features. Enjoy these above-mentioned dishes once and you will definitely have memorable experiences in the journey of discovering this land.